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Are Optional Ads Worth The Trouble? 245

azuredrake writes "NCSoft's City of Heroes has just announced that in-game ads are being added to the game, provided by an advertising firm Double Fusion. However, unlike in many games, the ads being brought to CoH have been defined as 'always optional'. The publishers see the ads as a purely additional revenue stream, not as something that will ever allow advertisers to affect game content. Commentary is available at Gamasutra. Is making advertisement volunteer-based a viable way to get around cynicism? The tone of these ads seems to be 'check them out to help the game'. Are there any sites or services in which you'd voluntarily look at ads to lend a hand? "
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Are Optional Ads Worth The Trouble?

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  • Games as art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kaos07 ( 1113443 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @02:50AM (#22978056)

    The idea of putting advertising in games, regardless of whether it's optional or not is an interesting one. It comes back to the question of motivation. If a studio designs a game, we assume they (programmers, artists, texturers etc.) are doing it because a) they enjoy it and b) they believe they're creating a cultural icon made up of lots of different artistic elements like sound, visuals and animation.

    Now I think it's fairly accepted that anything that "Sells out" (ie. uses the artistic medium purely for profit) isn't really regarded as art. These days that may seem less the case and I bet you're all waiting to cite examples of particular genres of music and film which contain product placement, but in my opinion and I think the opinion of many of those who both create and appreciate true art (Whether it be film, music, paintings, whatever) those particular examples fail to be art and end up being advertisements in themselves.

    I think that placing ads in the artistic medium of videogames negates the inherent artistic nature of them, as concern grows over whether the creators of the game were making it because of the above reason or purely to make money.

    Then again maybe I'm just sick of seeing the same bunch of #%@&head corporations ripping off their workers, consumers and the environment and infiltrating every aspect of our lives. Gaming should be a form of escapism. It's hard to escape our intense, competitive, profit driven world when there's Coca Cola and Microsoft billboards in my supposedly "alternate" universe.

  • Re:Delusions.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @03:05AM (#22978120) Homepage
    I don't know about that. I mean, you're right in that a significant percentage will opt-out. I'm probably going to opt-in, at least at first, and if the advertising doesn't significantly degrade my playing experience (i.e. cause tons of lag), then I'll probably leave it on, if for no other reason that it would be nice to see something other then the same couple dozen or so current billboards in CoH/CoV. But I can't see them changing the ads to always being on, if for no other reason then the range of graphics settings you can play the game in, where the lowest settings would probably make the ads all but unreadable unless right on top of them. (Which is, alas, the setting I have to run on whenever there's a Rikti raid...)

    And apparently, NCSoft is making enough money on the current monthly fees and game sales where they are not considering consolidating servers that are generally low population or slowing the release of regular updates of new material. (Issue 12 is probably going to be about in a couple of months or less, for example.)
  • by vic.tz ( 1000138 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @03:48AM (#22978276)
    It depends on the publisher, I suppose, but in-game ads aren't all greedy. To make a high quality MMORPG (like CoH) these days, a developer will need to spend millions of dollars over a period of 3-4 years. That's a hard sell to investors. And these game companies aren't out to make just one game.

    NCSoft publishes a lot of good, unique games, and if in-game ads will help them publish more good games, I don't have a problem with it.
  • by jackchance ( 947926 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @03:59AM (#22978300) Homepage
    If i'm on a website that i like, i'll often click on ads to increase the chances that the site will survive .

    Southparkstudios is a recent example of this. trey and matt have put the entire volume of their south park work online (and some fun games.... there is a mario kart like racing game) in an ad supported way. They went out on a limb and i think they should get some back.

    What i would really like to see though is some paypal micropayment system where i could pay them to play the shows ad free. I wonder how much they actually make from a single episode?
  • by magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @04:10AM (#22978324)
    I don't know about anyone else here, but I have never in my life clicked on an ad I have found on a website to purchase an item. And the 'ad bubble' will fall, which is why I find it funny that people seem to cling to it.

    It's an empty revenue stream. Do you think advertisements on a website really sell a product more? Honestly not. I know of nobody that pays attention to them. Even moreso when the ad is in your face like "CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE ONE THIS!" or "HERE HAVE A SEIZURE WHILE TRYING TO HIT THIS MONKEY!"

    Where the real revenue stream will come from is having solid content that people are willing to pay for. People don't buy from newegg because they see newegg adverts smeered all over the place. In fact, newegg doesn't even advertise on TV (though they might have a few times but it's not generally known to the public) yet they make so much money.

    Back to the topic at hand, though. Simple fact:

    1. I will never buy a product I see in a video game.
    2. I don't want a video game wasting my bandwidth and gaming cycles to load an advertisement dynamically while I'm trying to frag someone because I'm never going to buy the stupid item in the first place.
    3. I'd rather my games and fantasy worlds use "joke" versions of popular brands because it makes them funnier, laughing at some of the ways they label brands (Youtoob in South Park vs. Youtube).

    I'm also that guy that walks into Best Buy that knows what he wants and is in and out. I don't buy their replacement plans, I don't buy their 5000 accessories. I want an item and I want just what I want.
  • Re:Of course! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2008 @04:11AM (#22978330)
    You are missing the point to a monumental extent. The customer does decide indirectly how the company brings in extra revenue. Annoy the customers, the customers leave; no more subscription revenue or advertising revenue.

    Buying the game and paying a monthly subscription does not get you a stake in the company, but it does make you a stakeholder in that company's future. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the concept of customer base. If you irritate your customers to the point they "opt out" of subscribing completely then you're completely screwed. You are getting confused between the individual customer and the generic "customer".

    Life must be very simply and very dull in your world.

  • by zblack_eagle ( 971870 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @04:17AM (#22978352)
    Perhaps they could divide up advertising revenue or a portion of the revenue amongst all of the players viewing advertisements to reduce the monthly subscription fee. So in the end players are "paying" the same amount. The more people viewing the ads, the greater the overall revenue, and perhaps more people would subscribe to playing
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2008 @04:30AM (#22978386)
    This point is so true. Livejournal is a good example. For years their management said there would never be ads on the site, period. Then came optional ad-supported accounts, with slightly more features than fully free accounts. Now recently the site has been sold and the new management has done away with non-ad supported free accounts for new registrations, so even paying users have to see ads when they look at these users' entries.

    Ads were once intentionally absent, then crept their way in under the guise of "user choice", and now they're mandatory. It wouldn't surprise me to see it happen again.
  • Re:Voluntarily (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arthurh3535 ( 447288 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @12:42PM (#22980606)
    Well, I would voluntarily look at ads to lend City of Heroes a hand. That is, if I hadn't cancelled my account the moment they offered a $10 costume pack.


    Too bad you did. They plowed that money they earned (which was far more than they were expecting) to getting the Villain Epic Archetypes into the game a full issue earlier.

    So their 'gouging marketing practice' actually helped the game measurably.

    I can only hope they come out with more optional costume packs.

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